US takes aim at UN migration pact ahead of conference

The non-binding pact agreed in July last year has become a target for right-wing and populist politicians who have denounced it as an affront to national sovereignty. (Reuters)
Updated 07 December 2018
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US takes aim at UN migration pact ahead of conference

  • the US said the pact represents “an effort by the United Nations to advance global governance at the expense of the sovereign right of states to manage their immigration systems.”
  • The global pact lays out 23 objectives to open up legal migration and better manage the influx as the number of people on the move worldwide has increased to 250 million

UNITED NATIONS, US: The United States on Friday took a fresh swipe at a UN migration pact that it shunned a year ago, just days before an international conference in Morocco to endorse the accord.
In a lengthy national statement, the United States said the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration represents “an effort by the United Nations to advance global governance at the expense of the sovereign right of states to manage their immigration systems.”
The non-binding pact agreed in July last year has become a target for right-wing and populist politicians who have denounced it as an affront to national sovereignty.
The United States, which quit negotiations in December 2017, expressed concern that supporters of the migration pact will use it to build on accepted practices and create a “soft law” in the area of migration.
The three-page US statement outlined a number of objections to the document such as a provision stating that detention of migrants should be “a last resort,” arguing that this was inconsistent with US law.
The United States is also concerned that the compact “downplays the cost of immigration to destination countries” such as the “loss of employment opportunities” for low-skilled workers and “stresses on public services.”
The US statement’s release came as the United Nations is preparing to host delegations at a two-day conference in Marrakesh on Monday to endorse the pact, despite a string of defections.
Hungary withdrew from the compact last year and since then Australia, Israel, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Belgium Latvia, Italy and the Dominican Republic have either quit the pact or expressed strong reservations.
The global pact lays out 23 objectives to open up legal migration and better manage the influx as the number of people on the move worldwide has increased to 250 million, or just over three percent of the world’s population.
When the deal was approved in July, it was held up as an example of a UN diplomatic success achieved without the United States at a time when President Donald Trump is questioning the relevance of the world body.
The United Nations has shot back at criticism of the migration pact, insisting that the document is non-legally binding and simply a recognition that international cooperation is needed to address migration.
After Marrakesh, the document will return to the UN General Assembly for approval at a session scheduled for December 19.


Myanmar army ‘kills 13’ in counterattacks on Rakhine rebels

Updated 13 min 42 sec ago
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Myanmar army ‘kills 13’ in counterattacks on Rakhine rebels

  • Rakhine has seen new levels of violence in recent weeks between the Arakan insurgents fighting for greater autonomy for ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and security forces
  • ‘We got 13 dead bodies of enemies and seized three weapons’

NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar: Myanmar’s army said Friday it killed 13 ethnic Rakhine fighters in counterstrikes after the well-armed group carried out deadly attacks on police posts earlier this month.
Rakhine state has seen new levels of violence in recent weeks between the Arakan Army (AA) — insurgents fighting for greater autonomy for ethnic Rakhine Buddhists — and security forces.
Many of the battles are taking place in the same region from which more than 720,000 Rohingya Muslims fled to Bangladesh after August 2017 when the army launched a crackdown the UN deemed ethnic cleansing.
The AA are a more formidable force than the fighters claiming to represent the Rohingya and have inflicted historically higher death tolls on the military.
On January 4, also Myanmar’s independence day, the AA launched pre-dawn raids that killed 13 police officers and wounded nine before the army stepped in, setting off violence that has displaced thousands.
But the army hit back, killing the same number of AA rebels in total in operations from January 5-16.
“We got 13 dead bodies of enemies and seized three weapons,” Major General Tun Tun Nyi said in a rare press conference in the capital Naypyidaw.
“Some officers and soldiers from our side were killed,” he added, without releasing the figures.
Myanmar’s military almost never provides statistics on casualties suffered in fighting against the country’s myriad ethnic armed groups.
The army called a temporary cease-fire against different insurgents in northern Myanmar last month but Rakhine state was excluded from the move because of the AA and the Rohingya militant group, which is called the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA).
The troubled state is a complex patchwork of Rakhine, Rohingya, and other ethnic minorities that intercommunal violence has largely driven apart.
Most of the Rohingya in the northern part of the state have been pushed into Bangladesh, where they refuse to return to Myanmar without guarantees of safety and citizenship.
The United Nations has called for Myanmar’s top generals to be investigated for genocide as a result of the operations but they reject the accusation.
The fighting with AA rebels complicates an already fraught repatriation process for the Rohingya.
Brig. Gen. Zaw Min Tun blamed the AA insurgents for the police post attacks earlier this month and accused them of “stabbing from the back.”